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I lived in Brooklyn for five years and after a life of loneliness (my friends deemed Brooklyn to be about as far away as Florida), I decided to move over the bridge to Manhattan. I rented a shoebox-sized apartment (300 square feet) downtown and was just happy to be back in civilization where my friends would come and visit me. A fourth-floor walkup, the space was described somewhat generously as a one-bedroom.
I had one window, which looked into an air shaft where a weird man would stare at me, and my apartment smelled like sweet-and-sour chicken. I had to climb over the sink to get to the tub, which was actually more like a crypt. The most disturbing part was that what looked like urine would leak through the ceiling from the apartment above. It felt like I was paying $2,000 a month to live in a tenement.
The turning point came when the landlord said he was raising the rent. I started looking for something cheaper and couldn't find anything, so that's when I decided to take the leap, scrape together my savings, and buy a place. I didn't want cookie-cutter: I was looking for something older with character. I found it in an elevator building just off Union Square. The 500-square-foot apartment had original details like old wooden beams, crystal doorknobs, and exposed metal door frames.
Keep reading to hear about the renovation and to see how the apartment looks now!
Due to lack of funds, I lived with things as they were for a while. The bathroom was something special: the shower pressure could only be described as a gentle spring rain; it took me half an hour to rinse the shampoo out of my hair. Moreover, the faucet leaked boiling hot water on my feet, so I had to cower in the corner in fear of third-degree burns. The tiles were all broken and the toilet was temperamental, but despite all that, I saw potential.
A year-and-a-half into my tenure, I decided it was time to get cracking. First to go was the tiny, poorly configured kitchen, which lacked cabinets and had a stove that turned on when it felt like it. One night, I accidentally set the formica countertop on fire when I was searing tuna.
We reconfigured the space, which was no easy feat. We extended the countertop so it was under the window to maximize the counter space, moved the refrigerator, added a dishwasher, and arranged the gas lines in such a way that the stove was no longer in front of the window. We also splurged on a Viking range and marble countertops. The kitchen is still tiny, but it's functional and elegant. It look three months and I had to move into a different apartment while it was under construction, but I love it and wouldn't change a thing.
Then it was on to the floors, originally honey-colored parquet. I knew it was time to switch them out when, more than once, my stilettos sank into them. We chose long, narrow planks in engineered hardwood in lieu of choppy squares. As soon as they were installed, I regretted my mistake. They were scratched immediately, and they just felt fake — they weren't solid, and they felt like they were floating under my feet.
Want to see all the before-and-after photos of the space? Get all the details on this renovation on Stylelist Home!